When it comes to the ravages of anxiety, Elisa Black does not hold back. “My anxiety is a wild beast,” she says. “It has destroyed relationships, clawed at my insides until I was sick, left me cowering under blankets, plagued me with panic attacks and tipped me into post-natal depression following the birth of my first son.”
Elisa Black, the author of The Anxiety Book, is not alone when it comes to suffering from what is a crippling condition. It’s all about management now for the 43-year-old journalist and author.
“Anxiety is part of everybody’s life so to say I’ll never have anxiety again would be crazy, for want of a better word,” she admits.
“But the very intense general anxiety and panic attacks, all those things that made my life very hard, I don’t have to deal with anymore.”
The turning point for Elisa came with the discovery that she had a genetic mutation in one of her genes, MTHFR, which meant her body had trouble processing mood-enhancing B vitamins. Once her doctor Andrew Owen prescribed folinic acid as a solution Elisa says the improvements were almost instant.
“I always had this horrible feeling in my chest, that something horrible was going to happen. Folinic acid got rid of that,” she says.
Elisa says she never set out to write a book about her long battle, but after the overwhelming viral success of a first-person story about her vitamin discovery, she felt she really had little choice.
More than 10 per cent of Australians are estimated to suffer from an anxiety-related condition. Elisa thought if she could help just a fraction of those, then the experience would be worth it. “The actual writing was vile, having to revisit all those anxious moments, and putting myself into those situations again. “But at least when I was done, I was able to look at the causes of my anxiety and the things that I’d been doing that had perpetuated it for so long.”
Elisa is quick to point out that although it helped her, folonic acid isn’t a cure-all. Her biggest message is one of hope and the need for acceptance. “For a long time, I felt guilty because I had this great life and I felt anxious anyway. I just needed to accept that it was part of who I was, and my life, and it was beyond my control. “I think sometimes people can start to lose hope and think that this is their lot in life. “But tomorrow could be the day you find the thing you need to do. Just keep searching because you will find something eventually that does help. “It just might take some digging.”
Elisa Black’s top five tips
1. See a doctor
Elisa says that this may sound obvious, but it really is the best place to start. “There are certain physical conditions that can cause anxiety-type symptoms, so it’s best to rule those out.”
2. Consult a mental health professional
To see if any of treatments might work for you.
3. Try transcendental meditation
Elisa believes using a mantra-based form of meditation is easier than trying to clear your mind completely.
4. Use distraction
With first-hand experience raising two demanding young boys, Elisa knows this is a powerful tool!
5. Be honest
“Just be honest with the people around you,” says Elisa, who was always good at hiding her condition for so long. “Part of the human condition is to sometimes deal with things that aren’t pleasant, so to be able to share that makes it easier to deal with.”
Elisa Black is the Author of the anxiety book
Photo: Unsplash – Ben White